Amari, Tzain, and Zélie have been traversing the desert for days now. As they walk, Amari remembers dreaming with Binta about traveling the world. She remembers that her father warned her that Grounders, divîners with power over the earth, filled the desert with danger. But Binta told her that the Grounders used magic to make settlements out of sand.
In the differing accounts of the Grounders, there is more evidence of Saran’s fear and prejudice. In order to cast divîners as a dangerous enemy worthy of suppression, his every association to the divîners was grounded in fear and violence. Amari now questions her family’s doctrine because she has formed important connections that extend beyond her immediate relatives.
Now those settlements are gone, but many still make their way across the desert to Ibeji. Zélie and Amari split off, looking for food. They are shocked to see the streets full of laborers, most of them young. They look half-starved. Amari is struck by her privileged life in the palace, where she sipped tea while others suffered deeply. She sees King Saran’s royal seal etched into the wall, depicting a snow leopanaire.
Like Illorin, Ibeji is not a place of privilege, and it highlights the economic inequality that accompanies social inequality in the kingdom. Most divîners here are laborers, showing how the kingdom has institutionalized the exploitation of labor from those it deems less valuable. Traveling to new places and observing the experiences of others helps Amari see the problems with her family and question the justness of their rule.
Zélie and Amari start to fill their canteens at a fountain, but a guard slashes his sword down to stop them. He tells them that the cost for a cup of water is a gold piece, calling Zélie a maggot as he does. Though Amari tries to hold her back, Zélie is outraged. She takes her full canteen over to a girl in the stocks, urging her to quickly drink.
Further codifying the economic prejudice in the city, most who work there cannot even afford to drink the water they need to survive. The guards openly use slurs to refer to divîners, showing how little they value divîners’ lives or consider them worthy of protection. As usual, Zélie does not hesitate to put herself at risk in the name of standing up to a larger injustice.
Zélie asks the girl why so many laborers are there. She tells them the nobles send them to compete in a vast arena, where they fight for a precious relic. The relic, she says, is like a great stone.
Divîners are seen as so disposable in this city that they are made to fight for the death as entertainment for those more privileged than them.